The $500 Build

Looking to build a powerful, expandable home office PC for under $500? No problem! This guide lists all the parts you'll need to put together a balanced computer that has the power to handle any office task. There's even an option to turn it into a serious gaming machine for around $650! And don't worry - if you need help building your system, our Builder's Guide to Assembling a Basic PC will walk you through every step, providing plenty of detailed photos and tips.

For November 2017, we continue to recommend the Intel Pentium G4600 CPU, the best CPU ever released for under $100! Intel may have branded this a "Pentium," but for all intents and purposes, this is a mid-range Core i3 processor in disguise! The key is its Hyperthreading technology, which Intel had never before offered on a Pentium. This processor has two physical cores running at 3.6GHz, plus two virtual Hyperthreaded cores, allowing it to handle serious multi-tasking without breaking a sweat! It even has built-in Intel HD 630 Graphics, just like more expensive Core i3 models. This system also features 8GB of DDR4 RAM in a dual-channel configuration and a fast 240GB solid-state drive, ensuring that it will deliver an ultra-smooth computing experience unlike anything you'll get from similarly-priced off-the-shelf systems. Installed in the compact, stylish Thermaltake Versa H15 case and powered by a reliable 450W power supply, this system will provide years of top-notch performance, plus plenty of opportunity for upgrades.

Indeed, the beauty of this system is that it can be customized in so many ways. For power users, we suggest an optional upgrade to a quad-core CPU, which is ideal for multi-tasking, computational work, or video editing. And for gamers, we suggest an optional upgrade to the powerful GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB video card, which offers amazing performance for around $150. Note that if your total budget is significantly below $500, we recommend that you buy a pre-built system. Building an ultra-low-price PC is difficult if you need a copy of Windows (over $100 on its own and included in this $500 build). Our Desktop Buyer's Guide includes several capable yet inexpensive pre-built systems, so check them out if you're on a very limited budget.

If you're interested in seeing how this system has changed over time, flip to the $500 Home Office PC Archive. To discuss this build or get advice on your own build, check out the Reader Forum. And be sure to also check out our Monitor Buyer's Guide and Peripherals Buyer's Guide if you're in the market for components to round out your system. 

U.S. prices are shown below in real-time, with separate links provided to Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany for our readers in those countries. Regional substitutions have been made as necessary. If you decide to purchase any of the products we list, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of these guides. 

The $500 Home Office PC - November 2017

    CPU:

    Pentium G4600

    The Kaby Lake-based Pentium G4600 is the most powerful sub-$100 CPU ever released. While its model name doesn't give away what lies beneath, this is a 3.6GHz dual-core, Hyperthreaded processor, which means it's much faster than the 3.5GHz G4500 dual-core CPU released in 2015. The two virtual cores provided by Hyperthreading means it operates a whole lot more like a $120 Core i3-7100 processor than any previous Pentium processor ever could. Plus, with its built-in HD 630 graphics chip, this processor will easily handle any home PC use, including streaming high-def video.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We strongly recommend that PC builders on a $500 budget stick with this dual-core, as there's no other way to get this kind of performance in this price range. That being said, if you want to give your home office PC serious workstation-like performance, we recommend the amazing Intel Core i7-7700. For an extra $200, it provides double the speed, thanks to its four cores and eight total threads. It will drop right into this build with no other changes.

    Motherboard:

    MSI B250M Pro-VDH

    This inexpensive board is absolutely packed with features. It has DVI, VGA, and HDMI video outputs, one PCIe x16 expansion slot, and two PCIe x1 slots, and unlike a lot of low-cost boards, both of those PCIe x1 slots are available even when a large video card is installed. Furthermore, it has four RAM slots, as well as several cutting-edge connectors: a rear-mounted USB Type-C port and an M.2 SSD slot.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while some older B150-based boards may be able to support the Pentium G4600 after a firmware update, for guaranteed support, your best choice is a B250-based model.

    Memory:

    Crucial 2x4GB Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-2400

    With RAM prices spiraling out of control (in a bad way!), we're working hard to find the most cost-effective memory options for this build on a weekly basis. In fact, not a day after this guide was published with a recommendation of a DDR4-2133 kit for $76, it jumped in price to $92. So we've switched over to a faster DDR4-2400 kit that sells for less... until it too jumps in price! By the way, using a pair of 4GB sticks rather than one 8GB stick allows for "dual channel" operation, boosting not only CPU performance, but more significantly, built-in video performance.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While a total of 8GB is plenty for all mainstream uses, if you'd like to work on high-res photo or video editing, go for Patriot's 2x8GB DDR4-2400 kit.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial BX300 240GB 2.5"

    We now recommend that most builders choose an SSD over a hard drive. The responsiveness of a system with an SSD is so superior to systems with a hard drive that we simply don't think you should build a PC in 2017 without one. Among all budget drives, the new BX300, released in August 2017, is the very best drive at its pricepoint. It uses high-quality 3D MLC NAND, which you won't find in any other value-priced drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The motherboard includes the SATA cable you'll need to connect this drive.

    Case:

    Thermaltake Versa H15 Micro ATX

    Among the lowest-priced cases on the market, the Versa H15 from Thermaltake nonetheless packs in plenty of quality. With an attractive meshed front panel, along with a single rear-mounted 120mm fan, it provides excellent airflow and low noise levels. It's also small enough to fit just about anywhere.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Keep in mind that we're using the micro ATX standard here, so definitely stick with the mATX-based motherboard we recommend in this guide.

    Power Supply:

    EVGA 450 B1

    EVGA's 450W B1 model offers unmatched value, providing Bronze-rated efficiency and quiet operation. And the reality is that this build will use less than half of this unit's rated power output, even with an added video card, meaning you'll have power to spare!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This unit is backed by a 3-year warranty and EVGA's excellent customer service. Note that as of our latest update, it's available only in the U.S., so we've provided substitutes for readers in our regions.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    In April of 2017, Microsoft's Windows 10 marked its one-and-a-half year anniversary, with a huge new update called the "Creator's Update" to further distance it from the long-forgotten Windows 8.1. In addition to its superior usability, it also has lots of fine tuning under the hood to improve performance and provide greater customization options. And more updates are planned, with major new content every six months!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that given the price increase on the DVD version of Windows, we now recommend everyone use the superior USB flash drive version. It installs in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

    Hard Drive (Optional):

    Western Digital Blue 1TB (Opt.)

    This drive can be used instead of or in addition to the solid-state drive recommended earlier in this guide. If you need the capacity offered by a hard drive, then there really is no substitute in terms of value per dollar. We therefore recommend hard drives for bulk media and data storage needs, and this model offers above-average performance and quiet operation. Note that you'll need to buy an extra SATA cable if you'll be using this plus a 2.5" SSD and a DVD burner.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Using an SSD for the operating system and main applications, along with a hard drive for data, provides an incredibly-responsive user experience along with plenty of storage capacity. Read our SSD Setup Guide to learn how to make sure they're running optimally.

    Optical Drive (Optional):

    LG 24x DVD Burner (Opt.)

    At this point, optical drives are entirely optional, but if you have legacy software on DVD, you'll probably want one.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Because two SATA cables are included in the box with the motherboard used for this build, you don't need to buy an extra SATA cable for the optical drive if you'll only be using one other drive in your system.

    Video Card:

    Zotac GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

    Right now, the GTX 1050 Ti 4GB is the clear value leader in the $150 market, providing excellent performance with unmatched efficiency. That's what it allows it to be so compact and run without an any additional power connectors installed.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that many video card models will be too large to fit in this system. We've purposefully selected a smaller model to make sure there are no clearance issues.

    The Basic Wired Keyboard:

    Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600

    While most people probably have a spare keyboard or two laying around, if you need a new one to go with your system, you can't go wrong with this inexpensive option from Microsoft.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Going with a wired keyboard avoids issues with interference and low batteries, and more importantly saves money too!

    The Basic Business Mouse:

    Logitech Corded Mouse M500

    While you may have an old mouse sitting in your desk, you probably want to upgrade to a new, modern model like this M500 from Logitech. With features like forward/back thumb buttons, an ergonomic grip, and a dual-mode "Hyperfast" scroll wheel, it will add just a bit more dash to your new PC!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We've found that inexpensive wireless mice can be pretty inconsistent when it comes to responsiveness, which is why we recommend a wired model here.

    The 23-inch General-Purpose Monitor:

    HP VH240a IPS

    Featuring a 23" IPS-based 1920x1080 panel and a stand with full tilt and height adjustability, this new model from HP undercuts its competition by nearly $100. It's truly the ideal home office monitor!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This monitor is stands head-and-shoulders above any other model you'll find at this pricepoint, and is a huge upgrade from typical bargain-basement $100 monitors. We think it's definitely worth the extra cash.